Oregon, Photography, Thoughts and Lessons Learned

Just Living – Golden Hour on the Farm

“I am tired.”

If you’ve spoken to me at all in the last two months, my bet is that this was said early on in the conversation. Usually I try to stay away from default answers like “I’m tired” or “I’m busy” when I’m catching up with someone, because the reality is we are all busy and tired, and we all measure those differently. Personally, I think we are all capable of being better conversationalists.

But the truth is in this case, when I finally made it home to Oregon for my vacation at home with my family, this was all I could muster up when my Grampy asked how my work meeting in Seattle, (that I had just traveled from) went.

My body was tired, my brain was tired and I’d even say my soul was tired.

Both professionally and personally, this season of life over of the past six months or so has really pushed me. Its tested me and even broke me a couple of times. And that’s all OK. These seasons come and go, and I think it’s important to keep that in mind. I believe that sometimes you just have to put your head down and work, and do what you have to do to get by.

That first evening when I got home I immediately jumped on my laptop to knock out a few things related to the meeting I had just traveled from. But the sun was starting to set and the scene I could see through my parent’s big kitchen window could not be ignored.

So I grabbed my camera and headed out to sit in the yard with our old family dog Jack and just paused for a bit.

It’s amazing how little things like that can refocus things for you.

It’s a beautiful world sometimes I don’t see so clear
Some days you just breath in
Just try to break even
Sometimes your heart’s poundin’ out of your chest
Sometimes it’s just beatin’
Some days you just forget
What all you’ve been given
Some days you just get back
And some days you’re just alive
Some days you’re livin’
Some days you’re livin’

Family, Love Letters

Love Letter: Golden Anniversary

I talk about my Ego grandparents, known as Grampy and Grammy, every now and then on my blog, but I don’t know if they have ever been properly introduced.

My Grampy, Dave, is a retired high school counselor, principal and boy’s basketball coach. He served in the Army, working in the psych ward in the hospital at Fort Ord, California, during the Vietnam War. He is the ultimate sports fan. He goes to baseball spring training every year, has been a Portland Trailblazers season ticket holder since 1973 and over the years has done a lot of sports radio commentary (and those are just a few of the sports related notes). He also loves Benjamin Franklin, ice cream and pushing people’s buttons.

My Grammy, Gloria (or “Go” as my Grampy calls her), is an artist and florist, and last year we celebrated the 30 year anniversary of her store, Cottage Flowers, that my mom now owns. She loves reading, coffee, painting and though my Grampy is always the one singing, she is the one with the beautiful voice.

Together they like to keep their hands busy with yard work and projects. They are extensive travelers, spending the warm months of the year mostly up at our family cabin and the rest of the year traveling all over the U.S. and the world. They have a big heart for others, going on mission trips and running a home for girls early on in their marriage.

They have 3 children and 3 grandchildren, and though I’ve shared above that they have quite the colorful life, I know that they would say that their favorite adventure is their family.

And today they are celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary.

My relationship with my grandparents is really special. With a family business and growing up down the street from them, they were involved in Janci and I’s life in every possible way. Growing up, they helped send us to camps and activities, and were at every sports event, dance recital and county fair show. When Janci showed a real interest and talent for golf, Grampy became her main cheerleader, and it wasn’t just enough to come to my FFA events — they asked questions until they understood the contests and topics. They’ve always been good at asking questions, because for them its not enough to just be present. If something is important to their kids and grandkids, then its important and interesting to them. When I was a student at K-State, they made sure I always had season football and basketball tickets, and in return Grampy became a loyal fan so we could always discuss the game. Grammy was the one who instilled a love for reading and creativity in me, which you could really say is what partially helped sparked my interest in communications early on. When I accepted my current job and needed to make the move from Kansas to Virginia really quickly, they cut a vacation they had planned short so they could fly to Kansas to help me pack up and make the long drive. Last year, when my job took me to Thailand, they didn’t think twice about joining me afterward for an adventure. Those are just a few of the many ways they’ve have impacted and been involved in my life, and that doesn’t even begin to mention the things that the rest of my family and others would add.

They’ve spent 50 years of marriage investing in the people, dreams and things that are important them. In that time, I’m sure there have been many ups and downs, but they’ve worked hard — with humility, kindness and love — and its truly amazing to think about the family and legacy they’ve built because of that. So here’s my little love letter to them.

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Dear Grampy and Grammy,

I often have to remind myself that not everyone has grandparents like you. Not everyone gets to share every aspect of their life with their grandparents and share the kind of memories we do.  Not everyone gets the extra cheerleaders and the second set of “cool” parents. And because of that, not everyone gets to talk like we do, and share and learn together like we do.

You’ve never been the stereotypical sweet elderly grandparents and that’s OK. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but at this point, I can’t imagine it any differently. I’ve gotten used to explaining to others that my grandparents are the definition of being “young at heart” and that at the end of the day, they are always the ones with more energy left then the rest of us.

Because of you, Janci and I had two extra constant voices telling us we could go anywhere and be anything that we wanted to be. Because of Grampy, I yell shamelessly loud at sporting events and know that my shoes laces should never come untied. Because of him, I am also interested in the world happening around me, and I know the importance of showing up and investing in it. Because of Grammy, I have seen what it means to be independent and chase a dream, when to be strong and when to have a gentler touch. Because of her, I also have an eye for creativity and a love for a good story.

Because of the two of you, I know there is a time to put your head down and work hard, and there is a time to relax and enjoy the fresh mountain air. Because of you, I know that one should always make room for laughter and for grace. And because of you, I know that family is the most important thing we have.

I will never tire of going on adventures together, never tire at laughing at how you poke at each other and never tire of learning how to live well and love others from you.

50 years is truly something to celebrate, and I am so proud to be your granddaughter. Anyone who has ever had the privilege of knowing you, knows how lucky Janci, Sawyer and I are.

I love you two so much and can’t wait for our next adventure together. Happy 50th Wedding Anniversary

Love,
Mandy

Note: The pictures make a huge jump from some old fun ones that they were tagged in on Facebook, to what is in my own files. 🙂

Family, Friendship, Oregon

#MeganFINALLYGoestoOregon Part 1: Hermiston

Last week I traveled home to Eastern Oregon for a long-awaited vacation and this time around I had a tag along join me.

If you’ve read my blog before (or know me in real life), chances are you know or have at least heard about my best friend Megan. We met on the first day I arrived at the scholarship house at K-State, quickly became inseparable, and went on to live together for 4.5 years. Friendships as an adult when you live across the country from each other can be rough, but we’ve managed pretty darn well.

Since we met I have always wanted to share Eastern Oregon with her, so about a year ago I basically told her that she was expected to come with me the following summer.

The first part of our week was spent up at my family’s cabin, but we took a ton of pictures up there on both our phones and my DSLR that still need a bit of sorting, so we are going to jump around on this  Part 1 post 🙂

Reunited! Megan’s hair has always been pretty short, but I just cut my hair shorter than its been since I was a kid, so this picture kind of looks strange to me.

Our first night in Hermiston, my sister took us out to a new-ish local winery nearby. Echo Ridge Winery has been around a few years, but this was the first chance that I have had to try it! I will always love small towns, but I also love seeing how Eastern Oregon is growing in fun ways that highlight what it has to offer, while maintaining its small town culture. We did a tasting, and after agreeing that the Syrah was our favorite, we bought a bottle to take up to the cabin with us the next day.




We packed a lot into the week, especially since Megan was leaving a few days earlier than I was. I showed her the high school and the flower shop, since those are basically the main places where I grew up. Of course we grabbed food at my favorite taco truck for lunch and we drove out to the house I grew up in (my parents moved a little less than a year ago.) We also spent an evening with my childhood best friend Richole, (and saw her beautiful new house!) I love that my favorite people from different stages of my life know each other. Richole’s little boy Wesley (who is a regular “guest” on my So There’s That posts), is officially in the toddler stage and is just as shy and cute, as his mama was when she were little. I can’t believe that I didn’t take any pictures that night!


Didn’t take any pictures with the grandparents throughout the week, but this Snapchat that my sister sent me definitely made me smile.


On Megan’s last day I took her to the Umatilla County Fair and the Farm City Pro Rodeo. These are two of the things that she has heard me chat about endlessly over the years so it was fun to share that with her. We had a blast with my sister to round out the end of her visit.

Megan and I are definitely “soul sisters” in every way, and a large part of that is that she has also become friends with my family. My family is VERY close, so they have always made the effort to get to know and invest in the other important people in my life. Believe me when I say that I know that combination is really special.





Visiting home during the country fair and rodeo has its ups and downs. It’s great because I get to see a lot of people in one location. But there are drawbacks when your family is still involved in many ways behind the scenes. I love that we were able to round out each of the nights during the second half of the trip by going to the rodeo together.


But the star of the trip was definitely Miss Sawyer June (sorry Megan). She was just 3 weeks old when I arrived and I really could have spent the majority of my time snuggling with her. As I mentioned in a post soon after she was born, it’s been 23 years since there was a baby in this part of my family, so basically she’s the shiny new toy that no one can get enough of.


Even her Uncle Tom and Uncle Jay slowed down for some Sawyer time.

So that’s Part 1! I will be back soon with Part 2 and an overload of pictures from the cabin!

Cheers!

Love Letters

Love Letter: To Those With Hometown Roots and Wandering Souls

To those with hometown roots and wandering souls, this love letter is for you.

At my family’s cabin “The Diggins” in the Blue Mountains near Sumpter, OR. This post has a sign for every town that each of our family members are from. Mine is by far the furthest.

It’s been 8 years since I packed up my 18-year-old self and left Eastern Oregon for college in Kansas. And its been a little over 2.5 years since I packed up again and moved to Washington D.C.

I was visiting home last week and spent a little time with some family friends who have a daughter interested in attending K-State next year, so I answered all of their questions and shared a lot about my (awesome) experience. Toward the end, the mother asked if there was anything that I regretted. I said that I regretted never going on a study abroad trip and that I should have gotten season football tickets my freshman year, but no, overall I did not regret anything (well maybe a few nights in Aggieville that I wouldn’t mind forgetting.)

But leaving Eastern Oregon to attend Kansas State was the best decision I ever made.

Maybe it was because of our conversation, or maybe it was because I was home at my county fair, but it really made me reflect a bit on that decision and where it has led me. Over the years I have always had a small army of steadfast support, but there are still things I wrestle with. I hang on to a bit of guilt that there things that I inevitably miss out on and that maintaining relationships from a far takes a bit of extra work. It’s hard to be in an unfamiliar place where you don’t know anyone and constantly have to put yourself out there. And I still get questions from people who innocently just don’t get it.

It also made me think about other small town kids with the itch to wander.

I want them to know that having hometown roots and a wandering soul is possible.

I love my hometown. It’s a place where family businesses still reign and people give you the 2-finger steering wheel wave when you pass them on the road. It’s a place where teachers have taught multiple generations of students and where the community revolves around the high school sports schedule.  No matter how long I am away, there are Eastern Oregon sights, sounds, tastes and smells that are ingrained in my memory. Of course I miss it. It’s where my family is and will always be my home. But the world is a big, exciting place and if you are naturally curious like me, to not explore and experience it would be a crime. It’s hard to imagine that some of the people closest to me and some of my best memories wouldn’t exist if I hadn’t taken that leap of faith.

So to those with hometown roots and wandering souls, I want you to know…

You will cry more than you ever want to admit and you will want to give up many times. But you will eventually learn that that’s all OK. You are lucky to have people and places to miss and there is no shame in feeling sad or defeated from time to time. It reminds you that you are human.

Sometimes saying yes or no to things that come your way will be as easy as breathing and other times you will feel overwhelmed and challenged. Sometimes you are going to make the wrong decision, which you can always learn from, and sometimes it will take much longer than expected to reap the rewards of making the right decisions. And sometimes there is no right or wrong decision, so just choose one path and give it your honest best.

You are much braver and more resilient than you think.

You will be too much for some people. Those aren’t your people. Some of your people will be unexpected and some of your people will let you down. This is where you learn the art of giving and receiving grace. But I truly believe that you can meet great people wherever you go and that the further you wander the more interesting characters will fill your story and expose you to new things.

Sometimes you will embrace change and sometimes you’ll approach it kicking and screaming. Either way, it is inevitable, so rub some dirt on it and and figure out how you can respect the memories you have and find the positive in what is to come, because in my mind, the best is always yet to come.

As Logan Mize sings below, “You can lose a lot of things, but it’s hard to lose a hometown. Some things are bound to change but the sun still goes down just the same…”

Trust me, he’s right.

You will learn that you need to be more intentional and mindful of your words and time. You will also learn that a home and happiness are a state of mind that ultimately are up to you. Remember to respect that everyone is moving at their own pace and in their own direction, so what works you, might not work for them.

You will have a blast. I’m not saying that you can’t build an awesome life without ever wandering but exploring the world opens you up to new sights, sounds, tastes and smells that you can add alongside the hometown ones in your memory bank.

And most importantly, you can always come back home and the people who love you unconditionally will be there waiting for you.

Love, Amanda

katy

So There's That Series

So There’s That Vol. 21

{Sort of like  a “Friday Five”  or a “Life Lately” except it’s probably not Friday, and I gave up on the idea of a catchy alliteration. These are some bits and pieces of my glam #postgradlife. See past posts HERE}

1. Baby Ego

Most people who know me personally have heard me refer to Josh “my uncle who is more like a brother since he’s only a few years older than me” (which is usually my go-to line). So anyway because of this my sister and I do not have any first cousins on that side of the family.

Well after 23 years WE ARE FINALLY GETTING A COUSIN!

Don’t get me wrong, we obviously enjoyed growing up with our grandparents all to ourselves, especially since we have a family flower shop and we grew up just down the street from them, but its safe to say that Janci, me and the rest of the Ego/Spoo clan are pretty darn excited.

Baby Girl Ego is due mid-July and even though I wasn’t able to be home for any festivities, my family made sure I was included via FaceTime and SnapChat.

2. Speaking of Babies…

My best friend Richole is also expecting at the end of 2017. She shared the news with me a few weeks ago before she made it public but the excitement was a bit delayed because apparently I was a bit distracted that day…. click the image below to see our funny conversation.

3. Face App

My sister texted Josh and me about this new app that allows you to take your picture and then adjust it to be a girl, boy, old, young, etc. When she tried the boy version she thought she looked a lot like Josh, which she does…. but not as much as me. Regardless, its pretty funny and it shows that we are definitely related!

Janci as a boy, compared to Josh.

Me as a boy, compared to Josh.


Me and Josh, as “normal” as we can be.

4. Ellie

A few weeks ago I wrote a little tribute for our family pup, Ellie, who passed away. She was the sweetest dog I’ve ever met and I am sure going to miss her when I am home next.

5. Turnpike Troubadours

This concert definitely made me miss the Midwest and Manhattan, where there is at least one (or more) red dirt concerts in town every weekend! Surprisingly though, this was my first time seeing Turnpike Troubadours ever! A group of Kansas kids and other friends caught this concert at the Fillmore which wasn’t my favorite venue in the area, but it wasn’t too bad at all.

6. Girls Night 

Thankful for these bible study small group girls who’ve turned into friends….and thoroughly enjoy margaritas and dancing as much as I do.


7. Snapchat Voice Changer

I am well aware that most people probably don’t find the SnapChat voice changers as funny as I do…. and that’s just too bad, because I think they are hilarious.

So when I having a ridiculous time trying to navigate the ONE MILE between work and home because of a ONE BLOCK DETOUR, I figured the occasion deserved to obnoxiously documented.

8. Out and About

A few snippets (and Snapchats) of life lately.

Had a great time visiting my friend Chelsea in Blacksburg for the Virginia Tech spring game a few weeks ago… so much that this was the only picture that I took the entire weekend!

I was actually surprised how much I enjoyed this from Trader Joe’s, considering it was an impulse buy while I was waiting in line.

Virtual meeting with Kansas agriculture commodity and university folks means chatting up with all of your friends and mentors.

Another week, another bouquet of flowers from Trader Joe’s.

…so a 10 minute drive home turned into 45 because of traffic.

9. My Life in Memes

Memes that are speaking to me right now… both thought provoking and just plain funny.

**********

So, There’s That.

Cheers!

Family, Love Letters

Love Letter: Ellie

To our beautiful “lead-butt”, attention craving, fetch loving sweetheart and the best dog-cousin a girl could have.

Ellie girl, I would argue with anyone that you were the sweetest, most gentle and loyal dog that I ever met and am likely to ever meet.

You were a true “family” dog because for so much of your life it was hard to say exactly whose dog you actually were. And that’s OK. You had more than enough love in you to share with everyone.

Thanks for the cuddles and making us laugh because of your need to be impossibly close to someone at all times. I am glad that you aren’t suffering anymore, but your boy Jack and the rest of us are going to miss you a whole lot.


Ellie on the left and Jack on the right.

Agriculture, Oregon, Photography

Feeding Cows with Dad

There are fewer things that I love more than being home with my family in Oregon doing everyday things, and there are even fewer things that I love more than seeing my family happy.

My parents have always dreamed of having property and cows, and of a farmhouse that they could call their forever home.

Once they found what they wanted there were a few frustrating years before it all came together, so when it finally happened it was that much sweeter.

It was a bit overwhelming at first when I came home. I was walking into a completely different place than where I grew up, but with every room and little detail that they showed me, it became more and more clear to me. This home is perfect for them.

I might take pictures someday of the house, maybe even on this trip.

But I knew even before I came home, that the first thing my camera lens would focus on were my dad and those beloved cows.

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In case you are wondering, these “Oreo” cows are the breed “Bue Lingo.”

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Breakfast time.

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I am only slightly upset that my family finally got cows AFTER I left home…

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This barn cat came with the property. My dad has renamed it “Talks a Lot.” It follows him EVERYWHERE, and well, never stops talking.

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This is what a very happy, new farmer looks like.

Cheers!